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Lawyer Claims New Evidence Shows Marcos Involved in Aquino Slaying

March 6, 1986

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A lawyer said Wednesday that two men acquitted of murder in the slaying of Benigno Aquino admitted their involvement and that witnesses implicated former President Ferdinand E. Marcos in the assassination.

Private attorney Lupino Lazaro told The Associated Press he also has evidence linking former first lady Imelda Marcos and four ex-Cabinet ministers to the Aug. 21, 1983, killing of Marcos’ chief political opponent.

Lazaro was the lawyer for the family of Rolando Galman. The military claimed Galman was a communist agent who shot Aquino at the Manila airport moments before being killed himself by soldiers. The court that tried the murder case agreed with that version of events.

Meanwhile, the official Philippine News Agency quoted the chief prosecutor in the trial of 26 men accused of killing Aquino as saying he and the court had been pressured by Marcos. All the defendants - including former armed forces chief Gen. Fabian C. Ver - were acquitted in December.

The assassination of Aquino reawakened the opposition, which backed the campaign of his widow, Corazon, in the Feb. 7 presidential election. Mrs. Aquino was inaugurated as president and a military-civilian rebellion forced Marcos to flee the country last month.

Lazaro said, ″After the dictator (Marcos) was deposed, I exerted effort in order to convince those witnesses who did not give their testimony or kept silent about what they saw ... I appealed to their sense of patriotism.″

He did not reveal the names of any of his witnesses, but said he had sworn statements from some of them implicating many more people than the 26 originally charged in the killing.

The lawyer said the list of those implicated ″will include...definitely the president and the first lady,″ but he did not elaborate.

Lazaro also said two former defendants gave him sworn statements admitting their involvement, and saying they knew who shot Aquino.

He declined to identify the former defendants who came forward, and would not disclose their alleged involvement.

The Philippine News Agency quoted Manuel Herrera, who unsuccessfully prosecuted Ver and the other 25 defendants, as saying Marcos called prosecutors and judges to his palace Jan. 12, 1985, before the trial began.

Prosecutors and judges had not previously acknowledged meeting with Marcos concerning the case.

Herrera was quoted as saying Marcos told them there would be bloodshed if they pursued the case against Ver and the others.

The prosecutors filed the charges anyway, and Herrera said Marcos’ lawyer met with them and told them how to carry out the president’s bidding, the agency reported.

The report quoted Herrera as saying the president told prosecutors in the Tagalog language, ″Let’s just play-act.″

Lazaro said his witnesses implicated the following former Cabinet officials: Jose Aspiras, minister of tourism; Estelito Mendoza, minister of justice; Gregorio Cendana, minister of information; and another minister in a ″delicate position″ whom he did not name.

Lazaro would not say whether the fourth minister had served only in the Marcos government, or is continuing to serve in Mrs. Aquino’s government.

He said Jolly Bugarin, the director of the National Bureau of Investigation; and Balbino Diego, a colonel and chief legal officer of Marcos’ presidential command, also were implicated.

None of those named are in Mrs. Aquino’s government, and none were available for comment Wednesday.

Mrs. Aquino has said she will not extradite Marcos, who is in exile in Hawaii. But she has turned over the case of her husband’s murder to a commission to decide how it should be handled.

Lazaro said he would wait until the new president completes her changes of the judiciary before filing a petition asking that a mistrial be declared in the case.

Nine justices of the court that heard the Aquino case announced their resignations after Mrs. Aquino requested that all Marcos-appointed judges in the country step down.